Interview Day-of Tips

MBA Application Resource Roundup

For prospective business school students, we’ve created a short list of resources, including Apply Point blogs and information from external organizations, that will help guide you through the application process.

Apply Point Blog Posts

·       Deciding where to apply

o   MBA School Selection: Important Considerations When Building Your School List

o   MBA School Selection: What are the Alumni Saying?

o   Want a Career Abroad? Consider a European MBA.

·       Application

o   MBA Application Submission: Is There an Optimal Deadline?

o   The GMAT V. The GRE: Which Test is Best for You?

o   MBA Application Essays: Prompts Designed to Get Beyond Applicants’ Professional Experiences to Gauge Creativity and Assess Values

o   IQ is Important, but Don’t Forget About EQ

o    Using Recommendations to Strategically Enhance Your MBA Application

·       Interview preparation and tips

o   Top Ten Tips for the MBA Behavioral Interview

o   The Wharton Interview: Excel in the Team Based Discussion

o   MBA Interviews: When the Interview Requires More than an Interview

·       Use Social Media to Enhance Your Graduate School Application  

·       Unemployed and Considering Graduate School? Ensure This Time is Meaningful and Productive

·       Unconventional Applicants to MBA Programs Must Consider Abilities in Innovation, Leadership, and Teamwork

Online resources and social networks for prospective and current MBA students

·       Poets and Quants

·       Beat the GMAT

Organizations and Resources

·       The MBA Tour is an independent and high-quality information source regarding MBA admissions. Events emphasize personal interaction between prospective MBA students, business school admissions representatives, alumni, and other like-minded education enthusiasts.

·       The Consortium for Graduate Study in Management is a continually growing and evolving alliance of some of the world’s leading graduate business schools and business organizations, supported by the strength of an extended network of students and alumni.

·       The National Black MBA Association is the premier business organization serving black professionals.  

·       Prospanica, formerly the National Society of Hispanic MBAs (NSHMBA), emphasizes educational and professional development programs to improve the Hispanic community as a whole.

·       The Forte Foundation is a non-profit consortium of leading companies and top business schools working together to launch women into fulfilling, significant careers through access to business education, opportunities, and a community of successful women.

The Wharton Interview: Excel in the Team Based Discussion

An invitation to Wharton’s Team Based Discussion can be as nerve-wracking as it is exciting. But with preparation and the proper mind-set, it can be an excellent opportunity to demonstrate your ability to think on your feet and respond under pressure. To ace the interview, consider the following tips:

1. Prepare thoroughly. After you receive the scenario, create a proposal and know it inside and out. Practice your presentation, out loud. Present in front of a mirror, or a live-audience of friends. Be sure that you feel confident about your ability to present your idea in a relaxed way, showcasing how you thought through the exercise. While, you don’t want to memorize your presentation word-for-word or sound overly rehearsed, you do want to be able to describe your idea in an articulate and conversational way. Your interview day may include other activities, such as attending a lecture and/or interacting with current and prospective students. You will want to be confident prior to arriving on campus with no need for last minute prepping.

2. Be prepared to explain and answer questions on your proposed idea. You can do this by considering what questions may arise from your proposal and writing out your responses to them. The more people you can share your idea with and collect questions from, the better. After working with an idea for a long period, it becomes harder and harder to poke holes in it. Let your friends, co-workers, or parents help you with this process.

  • To help you start, make sure that you are comfortable responding to the following.
  1. What are the beneficial outcomes of your proposal for students? For Wharton?
  2. What are the risks of your proposal?
  3. What assumptions are you making?
  4. What are the drawbacks or limitations of your idea? Why are these acceptable?
  • Be able to articulate the “why?” behind all the components of your proposal, as well as the “why not?” for other potential possibilities. This is important because (most likely) your proposal will not be selected. However, if you can find other students who have a similar “why?” as the foundation of their ideas, it will help you to collaborate with them and contribute to the discussion.

3. Prepare yourself to provide meaningful input to the discussion by continuing to be well informed of international business news. The Economist is a good, wide-reaching source for this. While there is no expectation that you will be an expert on everything, you should be conversant in current events and be able to make high-level social, political and economic observations about others’ proposals.

4. Be a team player. This cannot be stressed enough. While there is an aspect of competition to the interview, the team-based discussion is an opportunity to show your collaborative nature. Don’t try to “win” by pressuring the group to select your proposal. Instead, demonstrate how you will fit into the MBA community by being inclusive and showing leadership, humility, and adaptability. Articulate your thought process clearly, be positive about others’ ideas, continue to move the group forward by summarizing ideas, and question respectfully. Remember that the point of the exercise is to drive towards a strong team outcome; the better the team interacts together, the better all of you look individually.

5. Day-of tips:

  • Wear a business suit.
  • Feel free to bring notes, but do not read them directly or rely on them for more than a memory trigger.
  • Introduce yourself to other prospective students and work to build a friendly rapport prior to the interview.
  • Prepare three to five questions for the evaluators during the wrap-up portion of the interview.
  • As much as possible, relax and try to enjoy the experience. This could be representative of the dynamic you’ll live in for the next two years. Ensure it feels right to you.

The Multiple Mini Interview: Preparation and Day-of Tips for Success

Each year, an increasing number of U.S. medical schools are using the Multiple Mini Interview, an interview type focused on obtaining a deeper understanding of how a student processes information under pressure and uses critical thinking skills to derive an answer. The unique format allows prospective students multiple opportunities to make a “first impression” and reduces interviewer bias because of the recurrence of opportunities for a student to think through and address various types of questions.   

Multiple Mini Interviews typically consist of between four and ten interview stations, some with rest stations included in between. At the stations, interviewees are provided with a question prompt and a couple of minutes to think through the situation, then they’re asked to respond within a five to eight-minute period. The requested response could take various forms including collaborating with other prospective students, acting out a scenario, responding to an ethical or policy scenario, writing an essay, or providing a behavioral interview response. Whatever the format, applicants’ responses must showcase critical thinking skills, strong sense of ethics, and ability to see multiple viewpoints.

Preparation for the MMI should be focused on increasing your comfort level in reading a prompt and analyzing the question quickly so that you can articulate a thorough and comprehensive response. The MMI does not aim to assess your knowledge of specific topic areas, but rather is a format designed to extract a more genuine version of you.

We recommend you consider the following as you prepare for the interview:

  • Don’t forget the goal. As you practice your MMI responses, be sure that you’re integrating qualities into your answers that demonstrate intellectual curiosity, empathy, humility, professionalism, commitment to medicine and research, and tenacity. MMI questions are designed to reveal an authentic version of you, so as you prepare, make sure that you’re highlighting those qualities that will make you an excellent medical student and doctor.
  • Get current. Familiarize yourself with policy and ethical issues in healthcare by reading about current events. Write down key topic areas you encounter frequently and take informed positions. Practice describing your position, out loud, with an eight-minute time limit.
  • Practice your pace. If possible, participate in mock MMI interviews to get a more realistic interview experience and gather candid feedback. If you do not have someone to provide a mock interview, review sample MMI questions and record and time your responses. Critique your responses, focusing on how well you verbalized your thought process and supported your viewpoint, as well as, how adequately you made use of the time available. While this exercise may feel uncomfortable at first, it will be helpful to get used to working within the time constraints of the interview.  And viewing a recording will help you to hear/see what improvements you need to make.

On the day of the interview:

  • Read each prompt carefully and think through all aspects of the response. If the question allows you to make a counter-argument, do so, and share why you opted for the conclusion you did. If it is an ethical or values-based question, be sure to point out areas of nuance.
  • Make eye contact, look friendly, speak clearly and use every station as an opportunity to showcase your professionalism. If you start to stumble or get frustrated, take a deep breath or sip of water and compose yourself before continuing.
  • Use your time carefully; during the two minutes of preparatory time, outline your response and the general timing you’d like to abide by to make each of your key points.
  • Start fresh at each station; regardless of how well or poorly you did in the last mini interview, leave it behind and focus entirely on the prompt at hand.
  • For introverts, the MMI can be particularly challenging. Be sure to give yourself some quiet time prior to the MMI to gather your energy.

…And One More Thing, Don’t Forget to Schedule your Interview in the Morning

The behavioral interview is not without its faults.  In a brief span of approximately 45 minutes, interviewers form stereotypes concerning the characteristics required for success in the academic program or job, they tend to give negative information more weight and they make key decisions within the first few minutes, using the remainder of the interview to validate their original decision.

Despite the faults of this popular evaluative tool, most graduate business programs and medical schools require interviews for anyone they admit.  And they are becoming increasingly important.  Admissions directors agree that while an applicant can look perfect on paper, if they can’t perform well in an interview, chances are they will have a hard time securing a job post MBA or connecting with patients and attending physicians in residency.  They may also have a hard time fitting in as a student in a particular program.  Once an applicant secures an interview, many admissions directors agree, it is the most important piece of the puzzle. 

When preparing clients for their interviews, there are long lists of tips we discuss.  I advise them to create their own agenda, as there will certainly be differentiating points the interviewer won’t ask about; I encourage them to ask strong questions at the end of the interview, which not only show an in-depth knowledge of the program, but also a genuine curiosity; and I review with them specific past examples they could use to demonstrate their leadership potential or demonstrated commitment to a career in medicine.  As a former admissions director, conducting interviews was one of my favorite parts of the job.  And until recently, I haven’t given much thought to my own biases that existed or how they could have negatively affected applicants.  I like to think that I gave everyone a fair shot, but some recent research inspired me to apply a bit more scrutiny to the whole process of interviewing and the applicant evaluations that result.   

In “Daily Horizons: Evidence of Narrow Bracketing in Judgment From 10 Years of MBA Admissions Interviews,” recently published in Psychological Science, Wharton Management professor Uri Simonsohn and Harvard professor Francesca Gino used MBA admissions data (not from Wharton or Harvard) to study how applicant scores were affected if they interviewed at the end of the day, after a series of strong or weak candidates.  They found that a similarly qualified applicant who interviewed after a string of strong candidates got lower scores than what they would have received otherwise.  And, those who interviewed after a group of weaker candidates got better evaluations. 

“An interviewer who expects to evaluate positively about 50 percent of the applicants on any given day may be reluctant to evaluate positively many more or fewer than 50 percent of applicants on any given day.  An applicant who happens to interview on a day when several others have already received a positive evaluation would, therefore, be at a disadvantage,” Simonsohn and Gino wrote.

While Universities may be able to control this effect by having interviewers enter each applicant’s score into a spreadsheet that would help them monitor the results of interviews over time and keep focus on today’s crop of candidates, it is important for applicants to understand that their competition is likely to come from two pools: everyone and the other applicants who are interviewed that day.

I often wonder if I was guilty of this narrow bracketing phenomenon in my previous role.  Today, as a consultant, all I can do is arm my clients with the sound advice I know is tried and true.  From now on, I just might add one more tidbit: Schedule your interview in the morning.